In Session with Deborah: I deserve a treat

This week, I had a session with my dieter, Rachel.  Although she very much enjoys her job as a manager in a big medical office, Rachel also finds that her days are hectic and stressful.  In session this week, Rachel and I discussed a situation in which she got off track on Friday night.

On Friday evening, Rachel had planned on going out to meet friends after work, but then felt too tired from an especially busy week.  Although she initially thought to make herself a healthy meal at home, she ended up going home and ordering “way too much” Chinese takeout – and then eating almost all of it over the course of the night.  I asked Rachel what thoughts she was having when she decided to order Chinese takeout instead of her planned healthy dinner, and what thoughts she was having that then led her overeat.  Rachel said that the main thought she was having was, “I deserve to treat myself.”  “I had such a stressful week,” she told me, “and I was already feeling somewhat sad about missing my night out. I kept thinking that I deserved to treat myself after my hard week, and because I was staying in, the thought of big cartons full of Chinese food seemed the way to do it.”

I then asked Rachel how she felt when she was going to bed that night, and she told me she felt, “sick from eating too much, guilty, and really mad at myself.”  Rachel and I discussed the fact that, although she ordered Chinese food to “treat herself,” in the end it actually did the exact opposite because she was left feeling badly, both physically and psychologically.  I pointed out to Rachel that one of the dangers of treating herself with food was that, at least in this case, it was a form of emotional eating because what Rachel was really looking for was a way to unwind and de-stress from her busy week, as well as feel better about staying in.  Emotional eating is something that Rachel has struggled with a lot in the past, and at the time Rachel hadn’t realized that this, too, was emotional eating. And just like every other time Rachel used food to treat emotions, she ended up feeling all the worse for doing so.

Rachel and I then discussed the notion of treating herself and how she might go about it in a way that actually did make her feel like she was treating herself. Rachel told me that when she did things like get a manicure or a massage, or take a long bike ride with her friends, or indulge in an afternoon sitting in a book store with a cup of tea, she felt great, and not at all like how she felt after a night overeating Chinese food.  Rachel made the following Response Card to remind herself of this idea:

Bariatric Surgery Sabotaging Thoughts

Last week, Dr. Judith Beck and I presented at a Bariatric Surgery conference and we spoke about helping bariatric surgery patients change their thinking to help them better adjust to their new lifestyles and stick with their new way of eating.  Here are some sabotaging thoughts and responses that are particularly relevant for people who have had (or are thinking about having) some type of bariatric surgery.

Sabotaging Thought: Now that I’ve had the surgery, it’s not fair that I can’t eat normally.

Response: I need to change my definition of ‘normal’ eating.  I actually am eating 100% normally for someone who has had bariatric surgery. The way I used to eat is no longer normal (and remember – it was likely never really “normal” in the first place because it caused me to be overweight). My new normal is following my diet.

 

Sabotaging Thought: I won’t be able to take part in big celebratory meals anymore

Response: I can still celebrate occasions without overeating or overdrinking. I don’t have to make toasts with alcohol in my glass, I can celebrate a birthday even though I’m only eating a little (or no) cake, and I can still take part in the social aspects of special events regardless of what I eat.  What I’m eating or not eating does not have to determine how much enjoyment I get.  Besides, once I lose weight, I’ll get to enjoy looking and feeling great – which will be so much more pleasurable.

 

Sabotaging Thought: I’m afraid I won’t know who I am after losing so much weight.

Response: It’s true, things will look and feel very differently. It may require some renegotiation on my part to figure out where I fit in, and renegotiations with others to figure out our relationships, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  It’s better than the alternative of staying overweight, feeling miserable, and continuing to be stuck in an unhappy and unhealthy place. 

 

Sabotaging Thought: I’m sad I won’t be able to binge anymore.

Response: By having this surgery done, I am giving some things up and there are definitely disadvantages. It’s okay to be sad about what I’m losing, but it’s also important to think about how much I’m gaining, and how all-encompassingly great those things are, like better health, self-pride, and confidence.   I’ll be giving some things up, but in many ways, I’ll be getting my life back in return.

 

Sabotaging Thought: I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle so much change.

Response: Thank goodness things will change! I need change to keep moving forward and to improve my life. Change can initially be scary, but that doesn’t mean I can’t handle it, and that doesn’t mean it won’t be 100% worth it.

In Session with Deborah: Making a Food Plan

I recently had a session with my dieter, Kara, who is a busy stay-at-home mom to her four boys. In earlier sessions, Kara and I worked on all of the foundational dieting skills and she got very adept at consistently instituting good eating habits.  Because of this, we then started talking about having Kara make a food plan in advance and stick to it.  Kara was initially resistant to this idea and stated that her lifestyle just wouldn’t work with a strict eating plan because she was always on the go and she often didn’t know ahead of time what her next meal would be.  Kara also said that she didn’t want to give up spontaneous eating and liked being able to eat something if it was offered to her unexpectedly.  I discussed with Kara the fact that making a food plan and sticking to it would likely make her life a lot easier because she wouldn’t have to rely on willpower at any one given moment to resist unplanned treats. I also pointed out that it might actually be very helpful for Kara to have a food plan, because she was often scrambling around at the last moment to make sure that she had dinner on the table for her family. 

Despite these compelling reasons for why it might be worth it to try making a plan and sticking to it, Kara still resisted the idea and so we agreed to try it her way first – she’d work on staying in control of her eating and resist cravings, but without having a formal plan.  Over that week, Kara tried hard to reign in her eating without a food plan and without violating her rule: no junk food until after dinner.  However, when Kara came in to see me the following week, she dejectedly told me that something had thrown her off almost every single day, like when she was offered licorice at the park, cookies at a PTA meeting, or a dinner out with her husband.  

Kara and I discussed what had happened over the week and she realized that, right now, she faces too many temptations each day to be able to resist all of them easily enough, and therefore making a plan and sticking might be very helpful in overcoming this obstacle.  I reminded Kara that she probably tried very hard each day to resist the temptations and to reason herself out of eating food she knew she shouldn’t, and therefore likely had a much harder week than if she had just known ahead of time whether or not she was going to have something.  Kara decided that she was willing to try and stick to a food plan for at least one week and see if it made a difference in her overall day. 

Before she set out to do this, Kara and I spent some time in session thinking about when it would be hardest for her to stick to her plan and what sabotaging thoughts might get in the way of her doing so.  Kara thought that the hardest times would be, as it had been, when she was offered or saw food she didn’t expect, and to not give in in that moment.  I asked Kara what thoughts she might have in those moments, and then she made Response Cards with responses that we formulated together.  Here are some of Kara’s sabotaging thoughts and then the responses we formulated:

Sabotaging Thought: I really want to eat that right now even though it’s not on my plan. Just this one time won’t matter.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair that I can’t eat this treat right now.

Sabotaging Thought: I really don’t like having to make a food plan.

When Kara came in to see me earlier this week, she reported that she had had a much better week. As we predicted, once Kara made a food plan and worked on sticking to it, it made several aspects of her life easier. First of all, Kara struggled a lot less about whether or not to eat something that was offered to her because she knew that if it wasn’t on her plan, she shouldn’t convince herself that it was okay to eat it. Second, Kara also found that she really enjoyed having meal plans for the day (and even for the week) because it allowed her more time with her boys in the afternoon because she was spending less time trying to figure out what to prepare for dinner.  Once Kara decided to try making a food plan, she realized that it wasn’t nearly as bad as she thought it was going to be and, in many ways, it actually made her day better, not worse.

5 Strategies to Get Through Hard Times

In our work with dieters, one of the first things we let them know is this: When they start out, dieting may be fairly easy because they are highly motivated, and then as they practice their skills more and more, dieting gets easier. But at some point, dieting will get more difficult.  This is normal and inevitable and it happens to everyone.  We also let dieters know that when this happens, it doesn’t mean that they are doing anything wrong, and if they keep pushing through dieting will get easier again, 100% of the time.  The problem is that most dieters don’t know that dieting is supposed to get hard at some point and when this happens they panic, thinking that something has gone wrong, it will continue to be this hard, and it’s just not worth it.  And then what happens? They give up.  But this giving up is entirely unnecessary because dieting will get easier again if they keep doing what they’re doing.

What dieters can do when the dieting gets hard:

1. Make sure that their Advantages Lists are not feeling stale.   During hard times it’s usually more difficult for dieters to remember just why it’s worth it to them to put in the necessary time and energy, so it’s important that they frequently remind themselves by reading their Advantages List However, not only is it important for dieters to read their list, it is also important for these lists to resonate with them and to feel fresh and inspiring.  If dieters have been reading the same list over and over again, it may start to feel rote.  To help with this, dieters try strategies like reword their list, add new items, read just the top three each day, take a few minute to really visualize some of the items, etc. 

2. Think about past experiences. When dieters are going through a harder time, they often forget how good it feels when they’re in control of their eating. If dieters take time to really think about a recent experience when they stayed in control and remember not only how good it felt, but also simply the fact that they were able to do it in the first place, it can help remind them that dieting is not always so difficult and that, most of the time, it feels worth it.

3. Focus on the basics. When dieting gets rough, it can be helpful for dieters to take a few steps back and concentrate just on some of the most essential dieting skills, like reading their Advantages List, reading Response Cards, eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving themselves credit. Doing so can help dieters regain their focus and also feel more confident about what they’re doing because they already know they can do these things.

4. Respond to Sabotaging Thinking.  Often when dieters are going through a hard time, they have lots of sabotaging thoughts like, “This is so hard, I just can’t do it,” and, “It’s not worth it to me to continue trying to lose weight.”  If left unanswered, these thoughts can lead dieters to give up so it’s critical that they take time to identify what sabotaging thoughts they are having, make Response Cards, and practice reading them every day.    For example, dieters can remind themselves:

The things on my Advantages List are worth fighting for so just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I should give up. I’ve worked hard and accomplished other things in my life that weren’t immediately easy, and I can do this, too.

Hard times always pass. This is temporary and as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, it will get easier again.  Just keep working!

5. Make sure they are giving themselves credit.  Sometimes when dieting gets difficult dieters forget to give themselves credit for all of the good things they are still doing.  This is particularly likely to happen if they are only focusing on how hard or bad things feel.  When going through a hard time, it’s critically important for dieters to give themselves credit because they often begin to lose their confidence and sense of self-efficacy and question whether or not they can really do everything.  By recognizing the things that they are still doing, and doing well, they can fight against this and regain (or maintain) a sense of pride and achievement.

When a Dieter Becomes her own Diet Coach

 

Whenever I first meet with a new diet client, I always make sure to explain to them that the ultimate goal of treatment is to teach them to be their own diet coach so that they don’t need to work with me for life.  In my work with dieters, there are a few things that really mark a turning point in their progress and which signify that they are on the road to ultimate success. 

One such turning point is when dieters demonstrate that they are becoming their own diet coach.  In a recent session, my dieter, Michelle, really proved that this was starting to happen for her.  Michelle has two young daughters.  Both of their birthdays happen to fall within the same week and both of their favorite treat is Michelle’s homemade chocolate chip cookies.  The afternoon of her first daughter’s birthday, Michelle set out to bake chocolate chip cookies which would be served at her daughter’s birthday dinner that night, in addition to the cake she had bought.  Michelle told me that she made the cookies in the late afternoon (which happens to be one of her more vulnerable times for sugar cravings) and while she was making the cookie dough, she started to get a craving to eat some, despite the rules she’s set for herself: “No junk food until after dinner” and “Eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully.”  Michelle ended up giving in to sabotaging thoughts and mindlessly ate a lot of cookie dough while standing at the counter. 

After this happened, Michelle felt sick from all of the cookie dough she had eaten, and she was angry with herself for giving in to a craving and breaking her rules—especially since she had previously been following them so well.  This afternoon incident continued to stay with Michelle and caused her to feel out of sorts into the evening, resulting in her again giving in to sabotaging thoughts and eating a piece of birthday cake, despite having already had more than enough sweets for the day. 

That night, Michelle realized that she had made several mistakes, and she knew it was worth it to her to figure out how she could correct them, especially since the same situation would reoccur just a few days later for her younger daughter’s birthday.  Michelle sat down and thought about what had gone wrong and why. She realized that one of her first mistakes was not reading any Response Cards or her Advantages List before she started baking, even though she knew it could be quite difficult to resist the sweets.  She also had set aside time to bake during her most vulnerable time of the day, when she is most likely to give in to sabotaging thoughts. Additionally, Michelle didn’t have a clear plan for when she was going to eat the cookies, if any, and how she would balance that with having cake, so she wasn’t able to say something to herself like, “You don’t need to eat any now, you’re going to have one soon enough after dinner.” 

Michelle realized that planning was, indeed, necessary, so she set about making a plan for her upcoming cookie-baking.  This was her plan:

1.  Bake cookies right after lunch when I’m not hungry.

2. Read my Advantages List right before I start baking.

3. Plan to have one cookie after dinner and one half-size slice of cake.  If I want more cookies, I can plan to have one the next day.

4. Remember what happened last time and how I felt.  I want this time to be different!

Michelle also took the time to really think about what sabotaging thoughts got in her way the first time and made the following Response Cards to read with her Advantages List:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days later on her younger daughter’s birthday, Michelle carried through with her plan and the day went off without a hitch.  When Michelle came into session this week, she told me this whole story and we discussed what an important milestone this was for her.  Michelle had a challenging situation, she sat down and figured out what went wrong, she made new Response Cards in response to her sabotaging thoughts, and she came up with a plan to do things differently the next time.  I reminded Michelle that if we had had a session right after her first cookie-baking experience, I would likely have done almost the exact same things she did on her own.  This really proves that Michelle is fast on her way to becoming her own diet coach.   

It’s important to keep in mind that a big marker of Michelle’s progress is not when she stops making mistakes altogether, because everyone makes mistakes from time to time. The ultimate goal is for dieters to make mistakes and then recover from them right away and figure out how to handle the situation differently in the future, which is exactly what Michelle has done

In Session with Deborah: Tempting Treats

In my last blog post, I detailed a session I had with my dieter, Amy, in which we focused on her mindset and plan for her upcoming birthday.  When Amy returned for her session this week, we first discussed how things went on her birthday.  Amy reported that it had all gone “amazingly well” and that she followed her birthday plan exactly as it was laid out. 

Debbie: Last week we discussed some of the sabotaging thoughts you’ve experienced on previous birthdays.  The thought, “I won’t be able to enjoy my birthday if I stay in control of my eating,” seemed particularly strong. Did that come up this time?

Amy: It did, actually, when I was reviewing my plan before the guests came—I was thinking, “This just doesn’t seem like enough for my birthday.”

Debbie: And were you able to respond to that thought?

Amy: Yes, I did. I reminded myself that I still get to eat two pieces of dessert. . . that I’ll be full after two pieces anyway, and that I really don’t need more food, whether or not it’s my birthday.

Debbie: That’s great! Did reminding yourself about these things help?

Amy: It did, and I also read my Response Cards which helped.

Debbie: Great.  Were there other times throughout the night when you had sabotaging thoughts?

Amy: The only other time was after I had two pieces of dessert. I was looking at this really delicious cake that my sister had made and I was thinking, “I really want to have another slice. I know that cake tastes so good.”

Debbie: What did you do when you had that thought?

Amy: I excused myself and went to the bathroom to read my cards – again.  And I kept thinking, “You won’t be happy when you go to bed tonight if you eat more cake.  You’ve done so well all evening; don’t give in now.”

Debbie:  And so you were able to resist?

Amy: I was, and once everybody left and all the leftovers had been put away, I was really happy I did. 

Debbie: So, this may seem like an obvious question, but looking back – do you regret not eating more cake that night?

Amy: No! Not at all. And it was one of the first birthdays I can remember in which I went to bed not feeling stuffed. . . and instead, feeling really good about my eating. It was great.

Amy did really well on her birthday, although, as we predicted in our previous session, she did experience sabotaging thoughts.  However, because we had taken time in advance to formulate responses to possible sabotaging thoughts and she had taken the time to prepare before her party, she was able to effectively respond to them and not give in.  And, Amy experienced what most dieters eventually find to be true: once the event was over, she didn’t regret not eating more.  In fact, instead of feeling deprived, she felt proud of herself for the things she didn’t eat because she was able to go to bed feeling good about herself and her eating.

Amy next told me about a challenging experience she had later that week.  Two evenings after her birthday, she was reading before bed and found herself thinking about (and having a craving for) the leftover cake that she had wrapped up and put in the freezer after her party.  Amy told me that she struggled for a while about whether or not to give in to her craving, but ultimately her sabotaging thoughts got the better of her; she ended up going downstairs and eating a large piece of cake. 

Amy and I discussed this situation in more depth, including the sabotaging thoughts that led her to give in to a craving that night. Amy realized that one of her strongest sabotaging thoughts was, simply: “That cake was so good.  I really want to eat some of it right now.”  I asked Amy what her plan was supposed to have been for the leftover cake and she responded, “I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it.”  Amy and I discussed this further and we realized that one of the reasons she was unable to effectively respond to her sabotaging thoughts that night was because she didn’t have a plan for when she was going to enjoy the rest of the cake. Because she didn’t have a plan, she was unable to say to herself (something like), “Even though I want to eat the cake right now, I’m planning on having it tomorrow, and I can definitely wait until then. Besides, if I eat it tomorrow when I’ve planned to, I will be able to enjoy it so much more because I won’t feel guilty about it.” 

Amy and I then came up with a new rule for her: whenever she has a highly tempting food in her house, she is going to make a plan for when she’s going to eat it. We agreed that this will make it so much easier to resist cravings that arise at any one given moment, because she will know exactly when she does get to eat it. 

This session with Amy is a good example of the importance of both successes and challenging “slip ups”.  Even though Amy ended up giving in to a craving, we learned something very important from her experience. And we were able to figure out an important guideline for her which will help her handle similar challenges more easily in the future.

In Session with Deborah: Birthday Plan

Earlier this week I had a session with my dieter, Amy, whose birthday is coming up this weekend.  Amy and I discussed her plans for her birthday — she explained that she and her husband will host a dinner party at their house for a few close friends and family.  Amy told me that she was feeling somewhat anxious about this because, in the past, she has used her birthday as an excuse to overeat. She’s told herself things like, “Since it’s my birthday, it’s okay to eat whatever I want,” and, “I’ll have a bad birthday if I don’t eat everything I want,” which often led her to overeat on her birthday AND to continue to overeat  for days, even weeks, later.  Amy and I first discussed what we thought her mindset should be going into her birthday.  We had the following conversation:

Debbie: Let’s talk about your birthday last year, if that’s okay with you.

Amy: Sure.

Debbie: Okay, so what happened last year? Did you end up feeling good about your eating? 

Amy: Oh no.  I remember I was out to dinner with my husband and I was definitely thinking something like, “It’s my birthday, so I should order whatever I want,” and, “I won’t be able to have any fun at dinner or on my birthday if I restrict myself.”  I ended up eating way too much at dinner.  Then my husband had the waiter bring over a slice of carrot cake, my favorite dessert, with a candle in it—and I ended up eating all of that, too. By the time I got home, I was feeling out of control and ate lots more from the kitchen, even though I was really full by then and already feeling badly. 

Debbie: And so was your thought true? Did you end up having fun because you didn’t restrict your eating at all?

Amy: No, it was just the opposite. I ended up feeling physically sick, and I was so mad at myself for my eating. It wasn’t a good night.  I also ended up staying off track for at least a week afterward, which made the whole thing even worse.  It’s definitely my destructive pattern.

Debbie: So in terms of this year, what do you think now about the thought, “I won’t have any fun on my birthday unless I eat everything I want?”

Amy: Well, I guess I’ve proven to myself that that’s just not true.  When I ate that way last year, it made me not have any fun at all because I felt sick and guilty. I want this year to be different.

Debbie: So what do you think you could do to make this year different?

Amy: Well, first of all, I want to stay in control of my eating. I guess I should make a plan for what I’m going to eat, and remind myself that I’ll feel better if I follow it, even though it’s my birthday.

Debbie: I think that’s a great idea.  It’s so important to remind yourself that even though it’s your birthday, it’s not worth eating out of control because doing so will still ruin your night by making you feel sick and guilty. The same things that make you feel badly on a normal day, like overeating, will still make you feel badly on your birthday.  And, the same things that make you feel great on a normal day, like having a plan and staying in control, will still make you feel great on your birthday. In fact, it will probably help you to have an even better birthday night, too, and better days following your birthday.

Amy: You’re right. I want this year to be different and I want to go to bed that night feeling good about my eating, not regretting what I’ve eaten.

With this mindset in place, Amy and I began to construct her birthday eating plan.  We discussed the fact that it’s perfectly reasonable for Amy to eat some extra food on her birthday, as long as she does so in a planned manner.  Eating a little extra in a planned manner will enable Amy to retain a sense of control over her eating, which will mean that she’ll actually get to enjoy what she’s eating.  As Amy has proven to herself in the past, the moment she starts to feel like she’s out of control is the moment she stops really enjoying what she’s eating. 

Amy’s birthday plan looked like this:

Drink between 0-2 glasses of wine

One piece of bread

One serving of the main course and starch, and two servings of vegetables

Reasonable portion of two desserts (birthday cake and something else)

Amy also made the following Response Cards to read on the morning of her birthday and again right before dinner:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed with a plan and Response Cards, Amy told me that she felt much more confident going in to her birthday this year than she ever has in previous years.  She felt determined to avoid repeating mistakes from her past and to set a new precedent on her birthday so that she can go to bed feeling happy this year and for years to come.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Sugar Cravings

Question: I’m in the process of losing weight and have been doing fairly well. However, the one thing that keeps getting to me is sweets!  Somehow, even with all my best intentions to cut out sugar from my diet, I am not able to resist and keep finding myself giving in to the craving for sweets. This seems to happen most in the afternoon or when I unexpectedly come in contact with sweets, like at someone’s house or at a meeting.  Can you help?

Answer: I’m sorry that sweets have been difficult for you, but I do have some suggestions that may be helpful:

1.  It’s important to make sure that you don’t have an all-or-nothing mentality about sweets and desserts.  Often dieters may say to themselves, “Since I have trouble controlling myself around desserts/sweets, I’m just not going to have any.”  This is problematic because if dieters really like sweets, then guaranteed at some point they’ll find themselves eating them (as happens with you), and when they do they may tell themselves, “I don’t know when I’ll allow myself to eat sweets again, so I better eat as much as I can right now while I have the chance.”  On the flip side, if dieters know that they can have a dessert every single day (if they plan for it), then they don’t feel the same sense of urgency to “load up” because  they no longer believe that this might be their last opportunity to eat them. 

2. It is so helpful to plan in advance when you’re going to have dessert and what you’re going to have.  Many of our dieters end up instituting a rule about dessert for themselves:  one dessert a day, and not until after dinner.  Planning to eat dessert after dinner is helpful as it more easily allows dieters to turn down any sweets that they come in contact with during the day because they are able to say to themselves, “I don’t need to have this now, I’m going to have that brownie/cookie/ice cream after dinner.”  If you institute a similar rule for yourself, then you don’t have to worry about what sweets you see during the day because you’ll just know: if it’s not on my plan, I’m not having it.

3. Another important piece of this is to figure out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you are likely to have about eating sweets, and come up with responses to them.  Some common sabotaging thoughts are: Just this one time won’t matter; it’s just a little bit; everyone else is having it so it’s okay; I just won’t have my dessert tonight.  Do any of these sound familiar to you?  Dieters find it helpful when they make Response Cards with responses to these thoughts and read them throughout the day, and especially when they are going into a situation in which they are likely to be tempted.

Here is a sample response:

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to have dessert now (before dinner) because I just won’t have it later.

Response: Actually it’s NOT okay to have dessert now because if I do, I send myself the message that it’s okay to not do what I say I’m going to do; it’s not about the calories, it’s about the habit. Every single time I give in to a craving and have dessert before dinner, I increase the likelihood that I will the next time, and the time after that. Every single time I resist, I make it easier to do so the next time. 

4. If afternoons are difficult for you, then it may be a good idea to figure out ahead of time: am I hungry in the afternoons or is this just a craving? If it is hunger, then it may be worth it to plan (in advance!) to have an afternoon snack and make sure that you have that food available.  If it’s not hunger, then it may be worth reading your cards and your Advantages List and remind yourself why it’s worth it to not eat at that time.

And remember: the more you practice this, the easier it will get! The more and more times you prove to yourself that you can stand firm in the face of cravings (even sugar cravings) the easier it becomes to do so.

A Peek inside a Diet Session: Overeating Pizza

My dieter, Jason, had a major victory this week.  He was, for the first time in a long time, able to eat a single slice of pizza and not go on to eat many, many more. In the past, Jason would often order a whole pizza, telling himself, “I’ll only have one or two slices and stop there,” but inevitably he would continue eating until the whole pie was gone. 

In session this week, Jason told me about his triumph and then stated that while he was happy he had only eaten one slice, he did wish that he could have gotten that “happy” feeling from eating the whole pizza.  I asked Jason to think about the last time he ate a whole pizza and how he felt about it after.  Without any hesitation, he immediately replied, “I feel terrible. I feel so mad at myself and guilty.”  Jason and I discussed this idea further, and he came to the realization that the thought of eating an entire pizza is actually much better than the reality of doing so because in his (sabotaging) thinking about overeating pizza, he does not accurately recount how he’ll really feel. 

Jason and I then talked about how he felt after eating only one slice, and how that was different from eating a whole pizza.  Jason realized that, although he did want more, once the pizza was out of his sight he felt really happy and proud that he had only had one slice.  He was actually able to have pizza without feeling guilty about it, because he knew that it was on his plan and that it would help him reach his goals.

Jason made the following Response Cards:

Overeating NEVER feels as good as thinking about it does.  My sabotaging thoughts try to convince me that I’ll love it and feel really happy if I overeat, but in fact, that’s never the case. When I do this, I end up feeling bad, guilty, and angry with myself.

When I stick to only eating one piece of pizza, I actually enjoy it more because I know that it will help me continue to stick to my diet and reach my weight loss goals.

Although I may think ahead of time that having a whole pizza feels better than only having one slice, that is completely untrue because when I only have one slice, I feel proud and good about myself and I get closer to my goals. Having a whole pizza feels terrible and takes me further and further away from my goals.

It’s not all-or-nothing. It’s not as if I can either have a whole pizza or no pizza at all. I can plan to have one slice of pizza when I want to, and in doing so, I get to enjoy the experience of eating pizza AND enjoy the experience of losing weight.

A Letter from a Dieter

We recently received the following letter from Mary, a dieter using The Beck Diet Solution program. Like many dieters, she went through the program more than once and in doing so was fully able to absorb all of the different ideas, techniques, and skills. Also, like many dieters, Mary found that there were one or two particular concepts and responses that were particularly resonant and helpful to her, which she then successfully applied to both dieting and her life in general. We certainly found Mary’s letter inspiring and we hope you do as well. Way to go, Mary, and thank you so much for the letter!

Dear Dr. Beck:

I am using the Beck Diet Solution for the second time and I want to share the idea that has most changed my thinking and attitude. It’s the idea of “Oh well”. I practiced it the first time around but, for whatever reason, it didn’t sink in. It has now. There may be many ways of interpreting this idea but this is how it worked for me.

I think about my diet, my food plan, what I ate yesterday, what I didn’t eat yesterday, what I overate yesterday, what I’ll eat today, tomorrow, forever…etc. etc. ALL THE TIME! I have been doing it for years. Whether I am dieting or not, I constantly think about my weight and what I eat. It’s not as if I’m giving my brain a break when I am not on a diet…..I think about all this stuff anyway. And when I’m not watching my diet, I feel pretty disappointed in myself.

I finally got it through my head that if I am going to think about all of this anyway, every day, whether I am dieting or not, I have a choice. I can either think about it and be disappointed or think about it and be satisfied. Sheesh!!….I might as well feel satisfied. I finally faced the fact that I will be thinking about what I eat every day for the rest of my life and this is what I have to do in order to maintain my weight loss. Oh well.

I created a Response Card and read it daily. I just wanted you to know how much it has helped me, along with the many other valuable ideas in your book.

Thank you,
Mary O